As the new year approaches, many of us want to bury 2020 and never look back. It was a difficult year. No doubt about it. I too look longingly towards the promise of 2021. But it is important, especially as a Christian, to not be so quick to forget the lessons born from trials and tribulations and reflect and how they helped us grow as a believer and as a bearer of God’s image. For that reason, I wanted to put together this short wilderness devotional to help change our perspective of 2020.
My Experience in the Wilderness
I often tell people that if I had a chance to re-do life, I wouldn’t undo the suffering. Like the next person, I like comfort and the joys of this life, especially when it comes with a good cup of coffee. However, the suffering is what pruned me, made me stronger, and humbled me.
I recount some of the trauma I endured in a guest post I wrote called How to Heal When Others Hurt You. The only way I could write that post or counsel others that have experienced similar trauma is because I had to first experience difficulty. I had to find my way through the wilderness.
The Meaning of Wilderness in the Bible
Often when we think of wilderness, we imagine luscious green, undisturbed forests. The Smoky Mountains or the Alaska Range may come to mind. However, the wilderness in the Bible was anything but luscious or green. It was dry and arid, an inhospitable, desert-like place.
Many Bible greats spent time in the wilderness: Moses, the whole nation of Israel, David, John the Baptist, and even Jesus. It was generally a place of testing, pruning, and preparation and it preceded a great ministry or calling. Although I could do an in-depth study on each, today I would just like to take a brief look at the life of David.
David’s Time in the Wilderness
David’s reign as king was the high point in Israeli history. He united the tribes of Israel and established a glorious kingdom. He certainly had his mishaps, but he is generally viewed as being a great king, “a man after God’s own heart.” But his path to the throne was anything but easy and it included five-plus years in the wilderness just trying to survive.
The wilderness was a necessary trial for David, to prepare him for the role of being King. In my article, How Jerusalem Became “The City of David,” you will get a detailed view of how lessons learned in the wilderness prepared him with the necessary tactics to capture Jerusalem. However, despite all the practical knowledge he gained in the wilderness, there was one lesson that trumped the rest. We see a glimpse of it here in Psalm 63.
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.Psalm 63:1 (ESV)
When there is no water, and hunger and thirst overwhelms, there is no other place to go but to God. In the wilderness, David sought the “fountain of living water,” our only hope when all others have been exhausted and our only comfort when so much has been lost.
The Wilderness of 2020
The wilderness was a necessary time for the great calling upon David’s life. A person that has little experience with difficulty or adversity is usually unprepared or unable to handle the trials of tomorrow or handle greater responsibility. And his responsibility was certainly great.
Therefore, before we dive into 2021, let’s take some time to reflect on 2020. What was God trying to teach us? How did 2020 prepare us for 2021? Did we learn to depend on God? What are the practical lessons we will take into the new year? What are the spiritual lessons? Was God preparing us to start a ministry or for the next step in our calling?
Let’s not waste adversity, but instead embrace it as the necessary obstacles that teach us how to jump higher. Let’s not be too quick to bury 2020 before acknowledging the lessons we needed to learn as an individual, as a church, or even as a nation. Because if we are not ready, and the pruning is not complete, the time in the wilderness may be extended—-and personally, I would rather leave the wilderness of 2020 behind me and jump into a glorious 2021.